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Strauss, Franck: Sonatas; Finckel: Variations / David Finckel, Wu Han

David Finckel, Cello; Wu Han, Piano
Release Date: 10/05/2012 
Label:  Artistled   Catalog #: 19602  
Composer:  Richard StraussCésar FranckEdwin Finckel
Performer:  David FinckelWu Han
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

As in my review of this incredibly gifted duo's CD of the Sonatas by Grieg and Chopin, I also warmly recommend this disc. The masterly skill and technique is undeniable; the insights into the music are such that we have to pinch ourselves to remind us that these performers are, after all, only mortal; the enthusiasm, excellence and excitement of their playing knows no equal ... and, in addition, they can produce a sensuous beauty that I never encountered before in 34 years of my own performances of the cello / piano repertoire. As with the earlier disc, they are at one ... and that is not a reference to their being married to each other, although they are. Speaking from personal experience, a cello and piano duo can make the most perfect Read more marriage in music. It does here.

While I am prepared to accept that I am in a minority, one sonata on this disc does not appeal to me greatly. I have always found César Franck's music far too repetitive and derivative. Pleasant it certainly is, but how many times does that tune appear in his cyclic Symphony in D minor? As in Borodin's Symphony No 2 in B minor, it is done to death.

The Franck Sonata is, however, popular. Perhaps the cyclic form binds it together so that it becomes as familiar as a regular car journey with all the well-known roundabouts, landmarks and so on. The main theme of the Sonata is repeated too often..

The opening allegretto moderato does not make for a good curtain-raiser for a sonata. The succeeding allegro would have but, you will ask, does it matter what order the movements are in? The music leans towards salon music where a small audience of alleged sophisticates and mawkish sentimentalists dressed up to the nines attend a soirée.

Franck's hybrid style worries me. In his sonata he is trying to be a Bach, a Beethoven, a Schubert, a Liszt and so on. He has no personal stamp. Perhaps because of this variety he used the cyclic form to try to bind the work together.

The recitativo-fantasia third movement just does not work as music. It lacks continuity and, as with the Elgar Cello Concerto, it is self-indulgent music and, at times, the cello part is clownish. There are certain effects which do not suit the cello ... Tchaikovsky, Franck and Elgar used such effects. Nonetheless the Finckel / Han duo make an excellent job of this material and about five minutes into this movement there is yet another marvellous example of perfect cello tone.

The finale has the famous tune and is probably the main reason for the works popularity. But compare it with a great cello sonata, the Op 69 of Beethoven. It is so obvious. Franck is no Beethoven. And how many times does that tune appear?

BUT, it is beautifully played.

Edwin Finckel was born in 1917 and is David's father. The Willow Weep for Me variations is a virtuosic semi-jazz piece and a wonderful tonic after the Franck. What a gorgeous cello tone as well. And the piece is not cheap, crude or sleazy.

And to the Richard Strauss Cello Sonata. It is a far better work than the César Franck. Its outer movements are both allegros. The first movement has a classical clarity and this splendid duo capitalise here and ... surprise, surprise ... we have an interesting fugue. The slow movement is clearly influenced by Mendelssohn, as is the finale, and then, Strauss draws from Wagner. Although it is a youthful work and not very original, it is a good piece full of good themes and a convincing structure.

The performances are definite and can only bring lasting delight and admiration. Again, the sound quality and balance is flawless.

-- David Wright, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

Sonata for Cello and Piano in F major, Op. 6 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello), Wu Han (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880-1883; Germany 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, M 8 by César Franck
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello), Wu Han (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Variations on a Theme "Willow Weep for Me" by Edwin Finckel
Performer:  David Finckel (Cello), Wu Han (Piano)

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